Singapore—“Is it because I am from China and a woman?” Tang Bei exclaimed. She was one of the 51-year-old twin sisters who had been fined for assaulting two staff members at Simei Green condominium. Along with Tang Lei, she had appealed against their conviction in a four-hour emotional hearing, only to have the High Court justice deny their appeal.
In 2015, Tang Bei had been spoken to by Colvin Quek Choon Kiat, the condominium manager at Simei Green, after he had caught her tailgating other people at the side gate of the building, but she brushed him aside. A short while later, however, she applied for a condominium access card, but Mr Quek could not process her application since she did not have the papers that he asked for.
She and her sister went back to his office two months later, on April 28, to get her access card, but said she did not want to be served by the condominium manager.
Mr Quek then began to record their encounter on his phone, which he put on top of a cabinet.
Tang Bei is first seen reprimanding Mr Quek, which turned into a physical assault on the condominium manager by both the sisters. They are then seen spitting on him, and Tang Lei is also shown throwing a drink at his face.
When security officer Charles Kenneth Bligh stepped in, the women turn on Mr Bligh as well.
The condominium manager was later treated for abrasions and bruises on his forehead.
Tang Bei was found guilty of causing hurt to and spitting on Mr Quek. Her sister was likewise found guilty, but with an additional charge of throwing her drink on the condominium manager. Both women were also convicted of causing hurt to Mr Bligh.
Tang Bei was fined S$2,100, and her sister, S$2,500.
Seeking to appeal this conviction, the women, who are Chinese nationals who have been living in Singapore for many years, said on July 3 that they had been provoked by Mr Quek and that they had received unfair treatment because of their nationality, and perhaps even because they are women.
High Court judge Aedit Abdullah told them, however, that while he had “a clear impression” of their grievances regarding how they were treated, in Singapore, cases are determined with equality—regardless of nationality, religion or ethnicity.
The women’s emotional appeal
Through a Chinese interpreter, Tang Bei, who represented herself, said, “Doesn’t mean that just because I am weaker being a woman, and a woman from China, that I deserve to be hit.”
She argued that Mr Quek had admitted to hitting her in a “controlled” manner during the tussle on April 28, 2015.
She also implied that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) was biased against her and her sister, since the charges against them were based on the condominium manager’s narrative, which, according to her, was “completely taken out of context and not truthful”.
She then went on to accuse Mr Quek of choking and molesting her before the April 28 incident.
Tang Bei said, “After I was hit, molested and insulted for my nationality, I just reacted naturally as a normal human would. And Colvin Quek lifted his hands first. But in the prosecution’s eyes, it was a natural reaction by a normal person.”
She added, “Quek was the provoker… He threw the punch because he wanted the situation to deteriorate… When we chose to leave this dangerous place (the management’s office), he followed us out in hope that the situation would escalate.
Quek gave false testimony. That clearly shows he is the real criminal. If not, he doesn’t need to. Is it because I am from China and a woman?”
Switching to English later in her testimony she told Justice Aedit, “Your Honour, I have lived in Singapore for over 20 years. I never had a criminal record. Now I was molested, choked, punched, but I am in the criminal stand.
If this incident was told to international media and the rest of the world, it would be seen as a joke. And it would encourage other molesters to set traps (on their victims). Do I not have the basic right to react after I was molested and punched twice?
I have been innocent all my life, but because I didn’t choose to file a police report…”
The judge’s verdict
Though the judge ended by commending the women for their efforts, he said there was not enough evidence to overturn the case.
He told them, “I would like to emphasise that the courts in Singapore will determine matters fairly and equally for all persons regardless of nationality, religion, or any (background) of that nature.
The court does not distinguish between people of different backgrounds. What the court needs to do is to consider the law and the evidence tendered.”
Concerning Tang Bei’s line of reasoning that she had been provoked, Justice Aedit said that none of the preceding occurrences had been so “grave and sudden” that her reactions were justified./ TISG